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May 20, 2018

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Important cases — past and present

ISLAMABAD: The condemned NRO was nullified in 2009 by the apex court and all cases abolished under the PPP-Musharraf deal were re-opened with SC and HCs monitoring mechanism introduced to ensure that the corrupt are punished and looted money is returned without unnecessary delay.

This is 2018 but not even one high profile accused involved in NRO cases has been finally convicted and jailed despite the lapse of nine years. On the contrary, in most important NRO cases the powerful accused have been acquitted because of “missing documentary evidence” and owing to scandalous accountability court judgments.

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) while maintaining thick curtain of secrecy, is not willing to share the basic details of the NRO cases, their fate, acquittals, convictions etc. The NAB chairman as well as Bureau’s spokesman neither did respond to the queries sent nor did attend mobile calls while NAB sources insisted that looking into the NRO cases would mean paving way for unearthing a major scandal against the NAB.

According to sources in NAB, nine years after the re-opening of the NRO cases, there are still 50 NRO cases which are pending before different courts including 12 in Accountability Courts, 34 in High Courts and four in the Supreme Court. It is said that after the annulment of NRO, a total of 155 court cases, investigations and inquiries were re-opened. The re-opened cases included six in the Supreme Court; 30 in High Courts, 99 in Accountability Courts as five inquiries and 15 investigations are underway.

It is not known what has been the fate of 105 cases out of total 155 NROs’ re-opened court cases/inquiries/investigations as presently only 50 court cases are pending.

An important personality was acquitted by the Accountability Court because of “missing documentary evidence”. His co-accused the cases were acquitted through highly scandalous judgments of two accountability courts.

The Swiss cases could not be re-opened because of reluctance of the last PPP government. The then prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani had to face disqualification and removal from office following his conviction in SC’s contempt case for refusing to write a letter to Swiss authorities.

There is no explanation available from the NAB why it could not conclude all the NRO cases despite the lapse of nine years. There has also been no action taken against those who were involved in missing evidence in high profile NRO cases, who had their role in scandalous judgments or those who are responsible for friendly prosecution and NRO cases’ delays.

Interestingly, the SC in the NRO case had ordered the setting up of monitoring cells in the SC and High Courts to monitor the progress and proceedings of the NRO cases but still there are serious lapses and scandalous developments taking place to the advantage of the NRO accused.

The NRO judgment said, “A Monitoring Cell shall be established in the Supreme Court of Pakistan comprising the Chief Justice of Pakistan or a Judge of the Supreme Court to be nominated by him to monitor the progress and the proceedings in respect of court cases (explanation added in detailed reasons) in the above noticed and other cases under the NAO, 1999. Likewise similar Monitoring Cells shall be set up in the High Courts of all the provinces comprising the Chief Justice of the respective province or Judges of the concerned High Courts to be nominated by them to monitor the progress and the proceedings in respect of court cases (explanation added in detailed reasons) in which the accused persons had been acquitted or discharged under Section 2 of the NRO, 2007.”

In the same NRO case, the Supreme Court also directed the Secretary Law to take immediate steps to increase the number of Accountability Courts to ensure expeditious disposal of cases. However, despite these directions from the apex court the NRO corruption cases got a lenient treatment from all concerned.

During the PPP government, the NAB had presented to the government on Thursday a list of 248 politicians and bureaucrats, who were alleged to have plundered hundreds of billions of rupees but were cleared by the NAB under the NRO.

On top of the list was the name of a high-profile person while his several close associates, both political and bureaucratic, were also reflected. The list, which reflected a brief introduction of the cases dropped against each name under the NRO, also included the name of the then serving and former ministers, federal and provincial secretaries, ex-chief secretaries, existing or former members of the national and provincial assemblies and others.

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